Netflix announced yesterday that it will be debuting an original African documentary, City of Joy, on September 7th.

City of Joy, for which the documentary is named, is a rehabilitation center for Congolese women who are victims of rape and torture as a result of the violence throughout the eastern DR Congo.

In the trailer, a woman who found refuge at the center stated:

“The vision of City of Joy is to revolutionize the mindset of Congolese women.”

The documentary also chronicles the friendship between Congolese gynecologist and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr. Denis Mukwege and the Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler.

According to the website, the pair met in 2007 when Ensler traveled to DRC to visit Dr. Mukwege. Upon meeting female survivors, they asked what they could do to help. The site reads:

“It was these women who birthed the idea of the City of Joy, saying what they most wanted was a place to live in community so that they could heal — in essence, they wanted a place to turn their pain to power,”

Congolese-Belgian women’s rights activist, Christine Schuler Deschryver, eventually joined as the group’s director and the center officially opened in 2011.

Ensler says in the trailer that “hundreds and hundreds of thousands of women [have been] raped and tortured” in eastern Congo.


Why Are Women Experiencing Violence in DRC?


War and political unrest incite violence and crime within a nation; women and girls are often casualties to this viciousness. According to the documentary’s trailer, “the militias use rape as a weapon of war.”

The Congo has been in crisis since the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. As a result of the mass killings, millions of Rwandans fled to eastern DRC to find refuge. The following year, Rwanda and Uganda invaded their neighboring country to find the perpetrators of the genocide.

Congo’s first war was also known as Africa’s World War, as nine nations fought on Congolese soil.

Despite these events occurring over two decades ago, Congolese citizens are still recovering from the wreckage.

Today, the country’s fragility has prompted non-government militias to fight for dominance throughout the region. Women are the main demographic terrorized by these groups.

Additionally, the current Ebola outbreak is worsening the social climate.

Even though the nation’s recent history has been plagued with negativity, the documentary focuses on hope for the future. The director, Madeleine Gavin, explains her vision in the director statement:

“I wasn’t really interested in making a film that was too straight ahead because I had seen films where I felt like I got a lot of information but didn’t really experience anything. I wanted to make a film that allowed audiences to feel what I felt when I first went to Congo — the tremendous strength, vitality and commitment that these individuals had to each other and to imagining a future for themselves and their country.”


Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons.